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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Santosh Sivan
WinStar 12/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Malli (Ayesha Dharkar) is a 19-year-old in an army of children guerrillas in the South Indian jungle. She has been raised in a milieu of death and violence. Her brother was a martyr for the cause of her people. Malli executed a traitor responsible for the demise of seven other guerillas. She and her comrades are ready, willing, and able to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the people.
When Malli is chosen for a suicide mission, it is an honor. The leader tells her to be strong and to be brave. The target is a VIP; she is to put a garland around his neck, kneel at his feet, and then detonate the plastic bomb strapped around her waist.
The Terrorist seems to have been inspired by the 1991 assassination of India's Rajiv Gandhi. Director Santosh Sivan keeps the focus on Malli and the friendly forces in the universe that start working upon her once she accepts this deadly mission. Her heart is softened as she witnesses the fear and loneliness of Lotus, an adolescent boy who has lost all of his family to the ravages of war. When a truck blows up, he weeps: "There will be blood everywhere."
Malli's emotions are tenderized in a brief stay with a farmer, Vasu (Parmeshwaran), who gives her a room. Each night he sets a special place at the table for his wife who has for seven years been in a coma in another part of the house. And then, while rehearsals for the assassination continue, Malli recalls how her maternal came to the fore when she tended to a wounded soldier.
The Terrorist is a riveting film with a stirring performance by Ayesha Dharkar as the wide-eyed Malli who is forced to make a difficult choice under great pressure. Her story opens a door into a universe that is both totally alien and completely familiar to us.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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